Personalized, Pragmatic Attorneys with 34 Years of Professional Experience
Divorce is one of the most important events in a family’s life. If you or your spouse feel that your marriage is not working, you can file for divorce and move on with your lives separately. The divorce process becomes complicated, however, when it comes to settling marital issues like child custody and property division. The divorce attorneys at Felsen & Sargent take a pragmatic approach to divorce litigation and will work closely with you to develop a personalized strategy for ending your marriage on favorable terms. They will help you file for divorce, whether contested or uncontested, and get all your affairs and property in order as you start on this next stage of your life.
Schedule a consultation with Felsen & Sargent to get started on your divorce. Representing spouses in Frederick, Prince George’s, Carroll, and Howard Counties, as well as the District of Columbia.
Getting a Divorce in Maryland
Maryland does not have a strict residency requirement for spouses to meet in order to file for divorce in the state. Instead, either spouse must simply live in the state and consider Maryland their permanent residence when they file. However, if you want to cite a ground (reason) for divorce that may have happened in a different state, either spouse must have lived in Maryland for at least 6 months prior to the filing date.
If child custody is an issue in the divorce, the children must have resided in Maryland with either parent for at least 6 months before filing for divorce. There are some exceptions to this rule, but they will be based on the specific circumstances of your case.
Uncontested vs. Contested Divorce
Maryland recognizes two types of divorce processes:
- Uncontested (“absolute divorce by mutual consent”)
- Contested (traditional divorce)
To file for an absolute divorce by mutual consent, you and your spouse must agree on all the issues in your marriage, typically by having a written marital settlement agreement for:
- the division of your property and debts;
- child custody and parenting time for any minor children you have together;
- child support;
If you cannot agree on all these matters before you file for divorce, you can attempt to resolve your issues in mediation or, if mediation is unsuccessful, proceed to trial for a contested divorce.
For some couples, the most stressful aspect of a divorce is how the marital property will be divided when they part ways. Maryland is an equitable distribution state, which means that the property division during a divorce will be fair, but not necessarily an even 50/50 split.
The first issue when dividing property in a divorce is determining whether the property should be considered marital or separate property. Separate property, which is not subject to division in a divorce, is property that was owned before the marriage by one spouse or that was acquired by gift or inheritance during the marriage. Marital property is all other property acquired during the marriage, such as:
- income or real property held by the couple as tenants by the entirety;
- bank accounts;
- the family home;
- family businesses;
- furniture and jewelry;
- IRAs, pensions, and retirement plans;
- brokerage accounts and stocks.
Some couples may have already determined what will be marital property ahead of time by drafting a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement. Assuming the agreement is enforceable, it can significantly simplify the property division process. (A prenuptial agreement is enforceable if it is in writing and signed by each spouse after they have been given full disclosure of assets and debts unless they have waived the right to this information).
The property division process can also become complex when marital property and separate property have been commingled. In such a case, it may be necessary to retain experts to trace the funds to determine whether an asset should be treated as marital or separate property. For example, if both spouses pay for a renovation on a house owned separately by one spouse, it may be difficult to determine whether the house should be treated as separate property or marital property. The court will apply a “source of funds” rule to determine the proportions of separate and marital property that have been put into the house.
You should also divide your debts accrued during the marriage. These can include credit card debt, medical debt, mortgages, and car loans. To determine the division arrangement, the court will consider factors like the length of the marriage, any alimony award, the disposition of the family home, each spouse's contributions to the family's wellbeing, each spouse's financial circumstances, each spouse's age and health, and any marital misconduct that contributed to the divorce.
It is important to retain a divorce attorney who understands how to negotiate divorce and property division with tact and discretion and who also knows how to fight aggressively for your interests in court. The divorce lawyers at Felsen & Sargent provide trustworthy legal representation for divorce and all the ensuing issues, including property division matters.
Schedule a consultation with the firm today to discuss your case in more detail. Let an experienced team of divorce lawyers protect your rights to property.
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“Mr. Felsen is armed with 20+year’s local experience and it showed. He is respected by those who prosecute and who sit on the bench. One charge was in Frederick County, the other in Montgomery.”- Jason L.
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